On this Day 25th March 1680

The Vicarage of Paul, Cornwall in 1680

The Antient house belonging to the sayd vicaridge consistinge of many Rooms was wholely burnt and demolished by Certaine Spanish Invaders aboute the yeare 1595, of which sayd house some parte was Reedifyed and some parte left ever since to ruines. Which sayd house soe reedifyed Consistinge of Convenient Roomes for a Vicar's habitation before the late troubles by the civill wars grew into Some decay. And, in the said troubles the then vicar being sequestered and Removed it became wholely Ruinous and dilapidated and so Remained to the present Incumbents Induction into the sd Vicaridge. At whose charge there only at this present two ground Rooms Covered with straw or thatch, being the kitchen and a little room adjoining thereunto at the west end.

So reads the terrier describing the house of the vicar of Paul, set down on 25 March 1680 and signed by John Smith the vicar and John Harry and John Tonkin, church wardens.

So, from 1595 to 1680 the vicar of Paul does not not seem to have lived in the lap of luxury but by 1727 the vicar, Henry Pendarves, was reporting that the vicarage was recently rebuilt and now had five ground floor rooms and six chambers and a study. By Penwith standards of the time, a good standard of accommodation though not quite up to the standard of Ludgvan, where William Borlase had been rector since 1722.

The destruction of the Paul vicarage in 1585 was just part of the consequences of the Spanish raid which took place in July that year when Mousehole, Newlyn, Paul and Penzance were all attacked and burnt by a force of Spaniards led by Carlos de Amesquita. Sir Walter Raleigh was called upon to report on the conditions which had allowed this disaster to happen His conclusion was that

there is no part of England so dangerously seated, so thinly manned, so little defenced and so easily invaded, having the sea on both sides, which no other county of England hath, and is so narrow that if an enemy possess any of the two or three straits, neither can those of the west repair eastward nor those of the east westward.

Not only was the vicar of Paul not cosseted in luxury in the late 16th century but he and his flock were clearly at serious risk of their lives. The latter passed, at least for a while, with the accession of James I and the end of the Anglo-Spanish War but 100 years and more were to pass before the vicar found himself in the sort of accommodation which was common elsewhere in the country.


West Penwith at the Time of Charles II, Penwith Local History Group, 1998

Tudor Cornwall, A.L. Rowse, Macmillan, 1969 (1st ed. 1941)

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"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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